Introduction

The Heaphy Track is a tough ride and you need to be prepared.

The rules

  • Bikers must give way to walkers.
  • Night riding is not permitted.
  • Electric bikes are not allowed on the track.
  • You're not permitted to take a mountain bike into any hut or shelter, or onto hut porches.

You're responsible for:

  • obeying the mountain bikers code. The track is shared with hikers and other bikers – show respect for other users.
  • following signs and other markers that clearly identify where mountain bikes can be ridden and where they are not allowed
  • removing your bike from the national park should it break down.
  • obeying the closure of the track to mountain bike use. This will usually be after storms, heavy rain, snow or high-tide events, which may damage the track, particularly on the West Coast side.

When you can mountain bike

You can mountain bike the Heaphy Track in the winter season from 1 May to 30 November. Walkers will also be on the track during this time.

Where you can bike

You can ride mountain bikes on the Heaphy Track:

  • in both directions
  • in a group, provided there are no more than 6 riders in the group
  • during the day only from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. This is to protect two threatened nocturnal species found on parts of the track: the Powelliphanta snail and roa (great spotted kiwi).

You are not permitted to take a mountain bike:

  • in or out of the national park by helicopter
  • into any hut or shelter, or onto hut verandas or porches
  • off the formed and designated route.

Planning and preparation

As a multi-day ride, the Heaphy Track is much more demanding than other popular New Zealand multi-day rides.

As part of your preparation, you should have tackled at least one six-hour plus ride on technical singletrack, carrying a loaded 25–30-litre pack.

Track advice

The Heaphy Track is a tough ride – to ride safely you need to be fit, experienced and have good equipment.

The track is suited to riders that can do advanced Grade 4 mountain biking tracks. Fit, experienced riders should plan for two full days, staying overnight in a hut or designated campsite. Less experienced riders should anticipate a 3 day, 2-night trip.

Mountain bike track grade description

You can expect:

  • a well-formed 78.4 km track maintained to DOC Great Walk standard
  • bike stands at Perry Saddle, Saxon, James Mackay and Heaphy huts
  • numerous bridges, like swing and suspension, bridges
  • some rough track on the West Coast side. This area is more vulnerable to damage from rutting and erosion
  • changeable weather, including extremely cold temperatures, rain, wind and possibly snow. There are steep slopes, many bridges, avoidable obstacles and sections of track prone to deep flooding.

Watch out for takahē and the giant land snail:

  • Takahē have been released into Gouland Downs and are sometimes seen on or near the track. Ride with caution in this area.
  • The giant land snail, Powelliphanta, maybe on the track during the day, particularly after rain. Ride carefully and slowly through these areas, which are marked by signs – these snails are rare and unique to this part of New Zealand.

Beware:

  • of tight corners and slippery rock between James Mackay and Lewis huts.
  • kea at James Mackay Hut have become attracted to bike seats and hydraulic brake lines. When staying overnight in a hut, remove your seat from your bike, keep it with your other personal items, and cover your brake lines.
  • flooding in the Saxon/James Mackay section and the lower Heaphy Valley can reach 1.5 metres deep over the track. Be prepared to wait until it’s safe to continue, or return to Lewis Hut.
  • a section between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai Shelter is on a sandy beach. High tide or rough seas may delay your ride.

Fitness and what to take

You need to have a good standard of fitness, a reliable bike, and to carry all your food, clothes, overnight and personal gear, and bike tools and equipment.

This is a backcountry environment where you need to be self-reliant. At least one member of your party should know how to fix a bike.

If you plan to stay overnight, book your huts or campsites. Take your hut or campsite ticket with you if that is what you're using.

Hut to hut description

Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut

Time: 2 hr 30 min–3 hr 30 min
Distance: 17.5 km

The ride starts with a gentle steady climb, passing Aorere Shelter and winding up to 890 m through beech forest to Perry Saddle Hut.

Perry Saddle Hut to Saxon Hut

Time: 2–3 hr
Distance: 12.4 km

A mainly downhill ride to Gouland Downs on a wide, well-formed track. Initially, the track is quite steep with technical stony sections and deep streams.

Roughly halfway is Gouland Downs Hut. From here it’s 5.4 km to Saxon Hut.

Saxon Hut to James Mackay Hut

Time: 2–3 hr
Distance: 11.8 km

Boardwalks and a well-formed single track climb to James Mackay Hut with its spectacular view of the Heaphy River and West Coast. Look out for Powelliphanta giant snails in this section.

James Mackay Hut to Lewis Hut

Time: 1–2 hr
Distance: 12.5 km

This section is technical but an invigorating descent to Lewis Hut.

The track is rocky, rutted and soft in places. Get off your bike and walk these soft, muddy sections to avoid damage to the track or yourself.

Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut

Time: 1.5 hr–2.5 hr
Distance: 8 km

There are a number of suspension and swing bridges on this section.

The suspension bridges are ride-able or alternatively use the approved MTB swing bridge crossing method. This method involves flipping your bike on its back with the rear wheel angled away from you at 45 degrees. With the stem in one hand move yourself by gripping the top wire with your other hand.

Flooding occurs over the track in the lower Heaphy Valley and can reach up to 1.5 m depth. Be prepared to wait or return to Lewis Hut until it’s safe to continue.

Avoid further damage to this part of the track by walking your bike through the muddy sections.

Look out for Powelliphanta giant snails in the Heaphy Valley and around Heaphy Hut.

Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai Shelter

Time: 3–4 hr
Distance: 16.2 km

This spectacular coastal section of track weaves in and out of nīkau palms and native bush on one side and the roaring Tasman Sea on the other.

Look out for Powelliphanta giant snails on the track around Katipo Creek.

Popular ride options

Two nights

This is a lot more manageable for most people and is a popular option. The second day is 44.7 km long leaving two easier half days.

  • Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut: 2 hr 30 min–3 hr 30 min, 17.5 km
  • Perry Saddle to Heaphy Hut: 6 hr 30 min–10 hr 30 min, 44.7 km
  • Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai Shelter: 3–4 hr, 16.2 km.

One night from Brown Hut

Two days, one night. This option roughly splits the ride in half.

  • Brown Hut to James Mackay Hut: 6 hr 30 min–9 hr 30min, 41.7 km
  • James Mackay Hut to Kohaihai Shelter: 5 hr 30 min–8 hr 30 min, 36.7 km.

One night from Kohaihai Shelter

A two day, one night ride from Kohaihai Shelter to Heaphy Hut is a good introduction to the track. Stay overnight in the hut and ride back out the next day. This is a popular family ride along the spectacular, rugged West Coast coastline.

  • Kohaihai Shelter to Heaphy Hut: 3–4 hr, 16.2 km. 
Back to top